Some journeys are short while others are filled with bumps, twists, and unexpected obstacles. If you're lucky enough to be in an area with more than one fertility clinic, or willing to travel, it is crucial to get more than one opinion. When I first started my fertility career fifteen years ago there weren't nearly as many, but now there are eight other clinics within just 25 miles of the office I worked at. I was grateful to hear my patients had evaluated more than one fertility clinic so they were clear and confident in their choice with such a personal struggle. A fertility clinic is the foundation of your fertility journey and putting your trust in the right one will make you truly feel like you're in good hands and comfortable.
Here are nine areas I would consider when evaluating a fertility clinic:
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Unfortunately, finances and the stress they can directly bring are a huge factor to consider. Do they participate with your insurance and are you clear on your benefit details? This is vital to make sure you’re not caught off guard with unexpected costs down the line. If you are self-pay, do they have good programs with discounts for multiple cycles or a guarantee program? Make sure you know upfront what is included, and what is not, so you don’t get unexpected cost surprises later.
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Your doctor should partner with you in your fertility care. Are they compassionate, respectful, and honest? Sometimes difficult results are sugar-coated which leads to incorrect expectations or a physician can be condescending making you feel even worse in an already challenging situation. The physician you choose should make you feel listened to and cared for while they naturally evoke respect as an expert in their field.
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Inevitably we all have something important at a consultation that we missed asking the doctor or nurse, then try to call and have to wait to hear back for the answer or play phone tag. Are they patient and willing to answer all of your questions thoroughly? I recommend writing down a list of questions and bringing it with you to your consultation, follow up, monitoring and procedure appointments, and basically anytime that you will be in front of the medical staff. This process is complex, emotional, and often overwhelming. A good doctor or nurse will take the time to listen fully and give an informative answer so you are comfortable moving forward.
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The reproductive endocrinologist is not always the most important factor. The embryology lab is a vital part of the fertility journey so be sure to check their experience. Your clinic should be a member of the Society for Reproductive Technology (SART). Review SART data prior to your consultation and make sure to ask questions if you’re not clear. You can search for a particular clinic to see how their statistics compare across the country here. Ask your doctor to explain their particular results for your age group and treatment protocol. The clinic may also share their fertilization rates, blastocyst conversion rates, as well as freezing and thawing survival rates for both eggs and embryos.
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Remember, it’s not just the reproductive endocrinologist taking care of you. Often you speak with the nursing support and other office staff more than your physician. From the receptionist at the front who checks you in for your appointments to the embryologist who is assessing embryo progression, all clinic staff is involved in your care. Are they respectful and genuinely caring? The whole clinic atmosphere matters and should not add to the tension of the situation. You will be there a lot, you will see them a lot - it makes a difference so choose a place where you feel you have a cohesive team behind you.
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Diagnostic testing is a critical part of the fertility process. To maximize your time, will they accept diagnostic testing results from outside providers? If you’ve already had testing done and it is within appropriate timing, it is a waste of both time and money to repeat it. If you have not completed diagnostic testing, some should be performed at a fertility clinic but many routine tests can be ordered by your primary care or gynecologist with a better chance for coverage. Confirm what is required at their facility and what is accepted from outside labs.
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Education is key! You should be well informed at each step of the way. Initially, why are they ordering specific diagnostic tests and at follow up do they thoroughly explain the results and provide detailed answers to your questions? Properly explaining your treatment plan including medications, monitoring and what to expect along each step makes a huge difference. Do they offer injection training, written materials or provide online video links? An educated patient is a confident patient and it can have a significant effect on your stress level as you progress through the steps of your treatment.
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Mother nature doesn’t stop for weekends and neither does fertility. Ovulation doesn’t take a break on Sundays, but does your fertility clinic? Monitoring and procedures may be timed to avoid a weekend and it is important to know how those decisions are made so you can set your expectations appropriately. Do they close at certain times through the year or limit cycles each month? Be aware of your clinic’s specific restrictions as well as hours and days of operation (including holidays).
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Fertility wellness is key to a healthy fertility foundation for positive outcomes. When investing so much effort, time, money, and emotions - does the clinic address crucial aspects of your fertility lifestyle that may be undermining your success? Ask your care team what specific lifestyle recommendations they suggest for their patients. Though starting at least three months prior to conception is ideal, basic guidance should be provided and if not, do your research for other avenues to support your fertility journey and be your best advocate.
It is essential to have an ally with you on your path to help guide and ease the burden of this complex journey. Embrace Fertility offers support programs to help you feel nourished, cared for, and in control of your fertility wellness whether trying naturally or while undergoing fertility treatments. To learn more about how you can gain control of your journey, click here.